Tuesday, October 20, 2009

far too long

HI! Miss me?

We have neglected far too long
Assuming far too much
--"Far Too Long", Anacrusis

When I agreed to guest blog here, I said to myself, "twice a week? No problem."


Even though this has been a fairly lengthy harvest, things came to a head a few weeks ago and I've been scrambling at full speed. So...what follows is a series of micro-blogs...thoughts I scribbled down but never typed up. The only common thread really...I thought of them.

Viticultural Insanity

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again.
--"Helter Skelter", The Beatles

I can't seem to face up to the facts
I'm tense and nervous and I
Can't relax
I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire
Don't touch me I'm a real live wire.
--Psycho Killer", Talking Heads

The heat spell a few weeks ago pushed things along quickly. Or, shall I say, it pushed sugars up quickly. The acids stayed high, and the flavors did not develop. We chose to hold our cards and waited another ten days...during which time, sugars actually came down and the vine started to metabolize that acid downwards. Finally, time to pick!

Many wineries make a big deal about how many layers of sorting they perform. I say, it starts out in the vineyard. Here is a link to a quick video I took on our first big day of Cabernet harvest. One important thing you'll see is our method for getting rid of loose leaves...before they can fall into the picking box. We believe we pay our pickers well more than Napa Valley average. However, they are all trained in what is acceptable, what is not. If the fruit has any raisins or rot, they drop it. As they dump each box, they sort it out in the vineyard, right then and there. This time of year, our elevation gives us very cool mornings, often cooler than night time lows, and staying that way through mid day. One cool thing we observed during these pick days...moon set and sunrise at the same time!

We run a tight ship around here. On pick days, dad is out helping the guys sort the fruit while I get the morning punchdowns completed. Then dad and I take turns shuttling tractors from vineyard to winery...a great thing about our setup...the winery is in the middle of the vineyard...always a short drive to deliver. Between loads, I'm weighing and destemming the fruit. I have two helpers in the cellar, me and myself. We get along great. The three of us all have the same taste in music and almost never argue. With all the fruit coming in, the hours got longer...mornings filled with eight punch downs, tanks to drain and press, fruit to receive...it's no wonder we don't go a little insane this time of year.

Heavy clouds...

Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me.
-"Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", Burt

Yep, right there at the end of our big push...rain. Wait, I don't think I spelled that right. RAIN. In Islam, it's spelled, "the mother of all rainstorms'. 4.5 inches of rain to be exact. Last Sunday and Monday were crazy here in the valley with everyone trying to get ripe fruit in. At noon on Monday, our winery was filled to the gills with ripe fruit...but, everything that was ripe was in. Am I done? Nope. There's still about 20 ton of Cabernet out there, but it is nowhere near ripe. Even without the rain, it wouldn't have been ready for another few weeks. This rain could spell trouble for vineyards that were just about ripe and delayed for a few extra days...today would have been the first day to really be able to get out in the vineyard with tractors...but guess what...another quarter inch of rain yesterday! Thankfully, the thick skinned Cabernet is holding up well.

Break time

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
--typed by Jack Torrance, "The Shining" by Stephen King

Gotta get a break...Saturday I hit the wall. Came in, did my AM punchdowns, drove home, loaded the family in the car and went off to play with The California Repercussions for the day. Drove home, back to the winery for PM punchdowns. Some fun video of us playing located here and here.

As I write this, I'm finishing my last press load for a few days. I've got some barrel work ahead of me...and more fruit possibly coming in next week. Things look like they'll be calming down shortly...I've got more I want to talk about...of punchdowns, mountain fruit...or as the walrus said to the carpenter, of shoes and ships and sailing wax. But...that will come soon enough.

Andrew T. Schweiger, Winemaker, Schweiger Vineyards
Follow me on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SchweigerWine
Learn more about us at: http://www.schweigervineyards.com

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